The Story Of Daniel
The bible can incite our admiration, commiseration, and even shock when we read about the lives of those it depicts. Some repel us, others humble us, but most readers will find at least one bible character with whom they feel a great rapport. I find Daniel to be one of those characters. Not because of any significant similarity between our lives, but because in him I see a way of life to be imitated.
This article will be no more than an overview of the book of Daniels life and those he was involved with.
Daniel was a man who lived during the nation of Judah's captivity in Babylon. Throughout their history, there had been moral heights and depths in the lives of the kings of Judah; a pattern always imitated by Judah's people. Kings such as David, Asa, Jehosaphat, Joash, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah were what we could call spiritual giants. Though not without defects, we are told that it was due to their faith that the nation of Judah was spared from destruction for a long period of time. However, the majority of Judah’s kings did not abide on the same moral high ground of faith, descending instead into some of the grossest of sins and idolatries we read about in scripture.
So it was, after many warnings, that God ordered his judgement against them. One that would ultimately end in the nation's captivity in Babylon.
Exile to Babylon
After Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had defeated the nation of Judah, he instructed his officials to bring only the best of the children of Judah, the king's descendants, and the nobles of Judah to Babylon. They all had to be men without defect; handsome, gifted in all areas of wisdom and intelligence, and quick to grasp new concepts. These men were to be taught the language and literature of the Babylonians—Chaldean—to the end that they would be fit to serve in the king's palace.
Among these hand-picked young men, stood Daniel, an obviously healthy, handsome, wise and quick-witted individual; but also a young man with deep respect and love for the will of his God.
After Daniel and his young contemporaries had been chosen, they were put under the supervision and training of the chief of the Eunuchs in the king's court. It is highly probable that as part of their preparation, they too were made to become eunuchs.
Within Jewish society and law, a castrated man existed as an outcast to his people. Further separating these young men from their previous lives, they were stripped of their Hebrew names in favour of Babylonian ones. Daniels was changed to Belteshazzar.
- Was Daniel made a eunuch in Babylon?
Was Daniel made a eunuch in Babylon? Since Daniel was a servant of the king of Babylon, does that mean he was castrated?
For many, all these experiences may well have broken any cord of faith they had. However, during his official three-year training course, Daniels faith would be strained like few others have been.
The young men chosen for palace service preparation were instructed to eat of the king's delicacies for their meals and to drink of his wine. Certain of these delicacies, however, were unclean according to Gods law and therefore not to be consumed. Being a man who knew the scriptures and was aware of this law, Daniel rejected the king's wishes; determining in the heart that he would not defile himself in this regard though it would mean almost certain punishment.
Providentially, Daniel had come into the favour and kindness of the Chief Eunuch. And although fearing for his own head, the chief eunuch agrees to allow Daniel to stick to a diet of vegetables and water for a period of no more than ten days. After which, if Daniel didn’t appear at least as healthy as the others who had taken from the king's table, then the eunuch would be free to do as he wished with Daniel's diet.
At the conclusion of ten days, Daniel was brought forward and stood beside all those who had eaten of the king's delicacies. It was seen that he was healthier in appearance and more handsome of the face than all who had eaten of the richer foods.
Beyond the possible dietary lesson here, we learn a more important spiritual truth: that good comes from obeying God; but not always without opposition, as we shall see.
Upon demonstrating his faith, Daniel is blessed by God with knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom and the unique ability to understand visions and dreams; a talent that God would later use to elevate Daniel to greatness.
Now at the end of this three year preparation period, all the young men were presented before the king. Four of whom were considered far better than all the rest: Daniel and three others—who along with Daniel had not defiled themselves to eat of the king's food, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. In wisdom and understanding, Nebuchadnezzar considered these four as ten-times superior to all the wise men of Babylon. They were therefore chosen to serve before the king.
What caused Daniels appearance to improve so dramatically?
Dreams From God And Impossible Demands
Have you ever had dreams that kept waking you up, nightmares?
In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he started having dreams. Troubling dreams of the type that wake you up in alarm and a cold sweat. Dreams that so disturbed him, he eventually summoned all the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and other wise men of his kingdom together and gave them a royal edict: that they make known to him the meaning of his dreams.
However, he refused to tell them what the dream was, expecting them to tell him both the dream and its meaning.
You see, Nebuchadnezzars faith in the supernatural was matched only by his doubt of those professing power over it. So to add a touch of surety to their efforts, Nebuchadnezzar established a penalty clause for failure:
Their houses would be burnt down and they would be chopped into small pieces.
Knowing his wise men didn't always tell him the truth (and I'm not really surprised if this was the type of requests he made), this was his litmus test. If they could tell him his dream, he'd have complete confidence in their interpretation of it.
Though ensuring only the truth for the king, his edict left the wise men in a terrifying predicament. Their response? To tell the king that his request is impossible, unfair even, and too much to ask of any man. Which, as responses from a nations wisest men go, turned out not to be the smartest thing they could have said; especially to a king short on quality sleep.
In a sudden sleep-deprived rage, the king commands that all wise men in all of Babylon be destroyed... All of them! So far the wise men are not having a good day.
The king replied to the astrologers, "This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble."— Daniel 2:5
Daniel—considered ten times wiser than all in Babylon— suddenly finds himself at the top of the kings hit list.
However, when the soldiers arrive to kill Daniel, he manages to forestall his execution by requesting an audience with the king. Beseeching the king, he requests more time in which to seek an answer to the dream and its interpretation; a request the king grants.
Wasting no time, Daniel immediately seeks help from the font of all knowledge, the one to whom even the thoughts and intents of our hearts are known—his God. Seeking God's mercy concerning this secret dream of the king, and being found a righteous man, God grants Daniels request. That very night he receives in a vision, both the king's dream and its interpretation.
Before rushing off to tell the king, Daniel takes time to praise and thank his God for hearing and saving him; a characteristic seen throughout Daniels life; a man who always took the time to honour God first, even in the face of execution.
Daniel then goes to the king. Giving all credit to God, he reveals to Nebuchadnezzar both his dream and its meaning.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was a prophetic one, concerning the empires that would follow after the Babylonians up to the time that Christ would establish his everlasting kingdom, the Church.
Nebuchadnezzar, recognising the supernatural nature of Daniels knowledge, prostrates himself before his servant. Praising and honouring both Daniel and the God whom he serves, he promotes Daniel to the position of ruler of the whole province of Babylon and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon (those still living).
We read of at least one more dream of Nebuchadnezzar's that Daniel interprets. A dream that dealt with the humbling of the king, written by Nebuchadnezzar himself. In it Nebuchadnezzar praises and worships God for his greatness, honouring Daniel as one on whom the Spirit of the Holy God lives.
The Writings On The Wall
After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, time passes and we read of Belshazzar, likely the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, becoming king.
One day, being in the mood for a party, or just wanting to show off, Belshazzar decides to give a great feast for one thousand of his nobles. While drinking the wine of the feast, Belshazzar commands that the drinking vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple at Jerusalem, be brought before him so that his nobles may drink wine from them. While drinking from these vessels, they began to praise the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. At which point the fingers of a hand suddenly appear out of thin air. Fingers that begin to write on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace.
You can only imagine the terror that spread throughout the room at the sight of this wonder. Such terror that Belshazzar’s knees knocked and his legs gave way. In his terror he calls out very loudly for all his astrologers, magicians and soothsayers, promising them that the one able to read the writing on the wall will be promoted to the third ruler over the whole kingdom.
Long story short, the wise men decide to be honest, confessing their inability to read the words. However, it is the king's wife, the queen, who remembers Daniel, chief of the wise men, telling Belshazzar that the Spirit of the Holy God dwells with Daniel, as well as great wisdom and understanding.
So Belshazzar promptly summons his chief wise man and offers him the same reward offered the others; that if he can interpret the words on the wall, he will become the third most powerful over Babylon.
Because God was with him, Daniel interprets the words on the wall.
MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
They were a message to Belshazzar, who, unlike his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, had failed to humble himself before God, choosing instead to lift himself up in the pride and worship of useless idols instead of the one true God who held his life in his hands. The words on the wall told Belshazzar three things:
MENE: God has numbered Belshazzar's kingdom, and finished it.
TEKEL: Belshazzar has been judged and found wanting.
UPHARSIN: The kingdom would be given to the Medes and Persians.
Keeping his promise, Belshazzar promotes Daniel to the position of the third ruler over the whole kingdom.
Malevolent Men And A Foolish Old King
Daniel's new position proves to be a title of fleet worth. For on the very night that Daniel was promoted, the words on the wall were fulfilled. Belshazzar is slain and the kingdom was given over to the Medes and Persians.
One such king of the Medes was Darius.
Darius was crowned at the age of sixty-two and is known to have established one-hundred-and-twenty officials to rule over the provinces of his kingdom. In charge of these officials, Darius placed three governors. As you might have guessed, Daniel was one of those.
Daniel was a hard-working individual who did his job well. So well, in fact, that Darius lets it be known that he is considering elevating Daniel to the ruler of the entire realm, in place of the others.
Upon hearing of this threat to their power, the other officials begin to seek a way in which to discredit Daniel; to cause him to lose face before Darius. However, Daniels integrity and lifestyle prove to be irreproachable; they can find no fault with which to incriminate him. Except, that is, his faith. How might they use Daniel greatest strength—his faith— against him?
Going therefore to the king, and playing on Darius’ pride, these officials and governors propose that a royal statute be signed which forbade for thirty days any request to any god or man except to the king. A statute that, if broken, would result in the guilty being thrown to the lions. The king rather foolishly agrees to and signs this statute.
Something important to note at this point is that the Medes and Persians had a law. A law stipulating that any statute signed personally by the king was irreversible.
So what is poor Daniel to do?
Upon hearing of this statute, Daniel immediately opens his windows towards Jerusalem and petitions his God. He does this three times that day. An activity the officials and other governors had anticipated and planned for. On spying Daniel making request of his God, they rush off to tell the king.
Upon hearing their accusations, the king becomes angry at himself; for he appreciated and admired Daniel greatly. For the rest of that day, he strives to deliver Daniel from harm's way. Yet, in the end, even the king must bow to those laws the throne binds him to. So in misery, Darius commands that Daniel be thrown to the lions; but not before taking time to comfort Daniel with surprising words of faith; Darius believed God would deliver Daniel from harm.
That night Darius was in turmoil. And very early the next morning he races to the lion's den and shouts in a grievous voice,
“Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you continually serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
Whatever doubts Darius may have had as to whether or not he would receive an answer, they are quickly and thoroughly removed. Daniel shouts back to the king;
“O King, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.”
On hearing Daniel, the king, overwhelmed with joy, quickly has him removed from the den. In his place, he throws all those officials and governors and their unfortunate families, who had incriminated Daniel.
After this event, Darius writes another decree. In it, all men everywhere are commanded to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. This signed royal decree became an unchangeable law of the Medes and Persians.
Now apart from the many prophetic dreams and visions that Daniel had, which all make fascinating study, what I have just related is basically the story of Daniels life; or that part revealed to us through scripture.
Daniels life is a tapestry of great lessons. God used him as a light to those around him. Through him, they witnessed something of the glory of God, kings even converted by the experience.
One such king was Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the most powerful of all nations. Possessing almost unlimited wealth and influence, Nebuchadnezzar yet concluded that without God he was nothing. Take an example from that. No matter who you are, it is only because of God that you have lasting value.
In much of the book of Daniel, he prophecies of a time when God would establish an everlasting kingdom that would ultimately overthrow all others. When we go to the New Testament, we see that this kingdom referred to the body of Christ’s followers—Christians. A body of people that through obedient faith have had their sins forgiven and been adopted as children of God, part of a kingdom that will last forever after this world has gone.
If you are not a Christian, then God's invitation is open to you. Will you choose, as those kings did, to put God first and above all in your life, to become a citizen of his kingdom?
- Why Daniel Refused the King's Food
Although many aspects of his new life were objectionable, how did Daniel know to draw the line at taking the king's food and drink?
© 2020 Richard Parr